Big Star "Jesus Christ" EP (2015 Record Store Day Black Friday release)

For Record Store Day Black Friday in 2015, Omnivore Recordings issued a limited edition 10-inch Big Star EP titled Jesus Christ. This EP heralded the 2016 release of the 3-CD set Complete Third, which compiled the complete known recordings from the sessions of the third and final Big Star album Third (which was alternately known as Sister Lovers, and was essentially an Alex Chilton solo album). The 10-inch Jesus Christ EP was pressed in blue translucent vinyl, and its Three Wise Men cover art was reproduced from a 1973 Big Star promo poster. The EP is a good holiday-themed collectible for fans of the early-'70's power pop band.

The titular track from the Third album leads off the EP, without the short “MaƱana” instrumental which served as its intro on the album. The song is a jubilant jangle-pop tune about the birth of Jesus, using echo-chamber production and baroque horns and drums to add a feeling from another time and place. The EP's second track is an acoustic demo of the song performed by Alex Chilton, which appeared on Complete Third as well as the 2009 box set Keep An Eye On The Sky. Without the album version’s production, "Jesus Christ" sounds more like a song by a solo church musician. Not to say that the demo has church-like acoustics, but its simplicity makes it a compelling version of the song in its own right.

Another demo from the Third sessions which appears on this EP (and also on Complete Third) is “Demo #3” of “Big Black Car”. This demo was also performed by Chilton alone, and also serves as a worthy alternate version. Although it lacks the dreamlike aura of the finished album version, the unfiltered acoustic guitar sound has a haunting quality of its own. Chilton’s vocal on this version sounds world-weary, but it was probably meant to – and the lyrics contain a certain f-word not heard on the album version.

The other four tracks are instrumentals, which were mixed for use in the 2012 Big Star documentary Nothing Can Hurt Me. One of them, titled “Another Time Another Place & You”, was recorded in 1973 by Chilton and Richard Rosebrough; it shows Chilton in musical transition from the sounds of the first two Big Star albums to the sounds of the Third. The “TV Mix” of “Thank You Friends” removes Chilton’s lead vocals from the album version, leaving the instrumentation and the female backing vocals.

But the more interesting instrumentals on the EP are the “Untitled” ones on the first side, both of which were recorded by original Big Star co-founder Chris Bell, who left the band after their 1972 debut album #1 Record. (Bell died in a car crash in late 1978). The “Untitled Acoustic Instrumental” was recorded by Bell in 1968 before the formation of Big Star, when Chilton was still fronting the Box Tops. To my ears, this recording resembles a musical passage from Love’s Forever Changes album; do you suppose Bell was spinning that record in ’68? The “Untitled Electric Instrumental” was recorded by Bell in 1974 after his time with Big Star. It has a more expected post-Beatles '70's rock and roll sound – and, yes, it is reminiscent of Big Star.

Big Star - Jesus Christ

Big Star “Jesus Christ” EP (Omnivore OVS10-153) 2015

Track Listing:

Side One

1. Jesus Christ (album version)
2. Jesus Christ (demo)
3. Untitled Acoustic Instrumental (rough mix)
4. Untitled Electric Instrumental (rough mix)

Side Two

5. Big Black Car (demo #3)
6. Another Time Another Place & You
7. Thank You Friends (TV mix)